Earlier this year, we traveled to Italy to sample Sherco’s latest batch of 2020 off-roaders, and one of those models that impressed us most was the SEF 300. It’s the French company’s four-stroke version of its popular 300 SE two-stroke. We had just one day to ride all six models, so our time on the bikes in Italy was limited.
Photography by Ron Lawson and Palmer
Of all the bikes we rode that day, we left Italy wanting to get more acquainted with the 300 SEF, so not long afterward, we traveled to Kentucky, the home of Ryan Young Products (RYP), the new U.S. importer for all of Sherco’s off-road models, to spend more time on its middleweight thumper. Once again, our time was limited in Kentucky, but at least we were able to focus all of our attention on just one bike this time, the 300 SEF—more specifically, the 300 SEF Factory.
The 300 SEF (and most of Sherco’s off-road models) comes in two variants, Factory, and Racing. The difference between the Factory and Racing models are few but are significant. The main thing you need to know is that the more expensive Factory model is fitted with higher-end suspension components and exhaust system. But the critical thing, however, is the suspension. The Racing model comes equipped with WP components and the Factory with upgraded 48mm closed-cartridge KYB components, which includes a stouter 50mm shock. And the Factory comes with an Akrapovic exhaust system opposed to Sherco’s own exhaust system that is found on the Racing model. Other things exclusive to the Factory model are special handlebars, dual-compound Domino grips, engine guard, blue Excel rims, blue rear sprocket, and grippy seat cover. Graphics are slightly different, as well. The easiest way to tell the two models apart is, the Racing model has a blue front fender and the Factory a white front fender. Mostly, the Racing model is set up for “Eastern”-style racing and trail riding, while the Factory model is dialed in for pretty much the same thing but with a high emphasis on competition and tuned for more aggressive riders.
The quickest and best word to describe the 300 SEF’s overall performance is ultra-manageable (okay, two words). It’s a very forgiving motorcycle in just about every way. It’s easy to ride and far from intimidating, yet is still incredibly potent on the trail. It’s an excellent motorcycle for those who are turned off by the overkill of full-size off-road bikes (such as 450cc four-strokes and some 300cc two-strokes, and even 350cc four-strokes which are approaching Open-bike territory these days) but need more oomph that a 250F can’t offer. The 300 SEF is the ideal compromise. But with the 300 SEF, you’re not really compromising anything. Instead, it’s a motorcycle that does many things really well.
The 300 SEF is the bike you want to be on when the trail gets tight and technical, especially when there is little traction (but a lot of mud) to be found. It does what you tell it to do, nothing more and nothing less. It chugs like nobody’s business and is next to impossible to stall. On the Sherco, it’s super easy to control the exact amount of power you want from the throttle for those delicate and tricky situations on the trail. The Sherco’s power delivery defines the term user-friendly perfectly.
When the trail opens open, you won’t be disappointed aboard the 300 SEF. It has plenty of get up and go. However, it won’t rip out of your hands every time you grab a handful of throttle like what happens so often on 450s, but there is still plenty of power on tap across the board to get you where you want to go in a hurry. Compared to a 250F, the 300 SEF is way faster and has a lot more bottom-end and torque, too. Compared to a 450F, yes, it’s noticeably “slower” but far more manageable and rideable overall, especially on tight technical trails. It’s comforting to know, too, that in these conditions, the Sherco is fitted with a cooling fan.
The Sherco has a two-way map switch on the handlebar that alters power output, and the difference between the two is substantial. We found the “aggressive” mode to be the most desirable for most situations. The “mellow” mode works well for those times when traction is scarce, or when just playing around on the trail at a casual pace, even then, the aggressive mode is plenty fun, too.
Suspension is outstanding, as well. There isn’t much not to like about how either end performs. Compared to the WP-fitted 300 SEF that we rode in Italy, the KYB-fitted 300 feels slightly stiffer and offers better control overall. We didn’t feel the need to make any clicker changes on this day. Once we dialed-in the proper amount of sag, we were on our way and never looked back. Nearly 100-percent of the riding we did in Kentucky was on extremely narrow and twisty trails deep inside the surrounding and heavily wooded hillsides. And how can we forget about the extremely slippery and sticky mud that immediately packed the tires and made the knobbies seem all but useless. It didn’t matter, though. The 300 SEF was the perfect bike for these conditions. The suspension, combined with a well-balanced and steel frame that seemed to flex just at the right amount and in all the right places, and an extremely user-friendly motor, made the 300 SEF Factory a blast to be on when you really shouldn’t be having a blast!
The hydraulic clutch got plenty of abuse on this day, but it never faltered. The clutch remained consistent and did an outstanding job helping control the power delivery, which could be accomplished with just one finger, but two was best.
We had no issues with the six-speed transmission, which changed gears seamlessly.
Braking is handled by Brembo hydraulics with Galfer discs and pads; again, no issues here. There is plenty of stopping power at both ends, and we didn’t have any problems with the rear brake overheating and losing effectiveness.
In the saddle, the Sherco is a very comfortable motorcycle with neutral ergos and handlebars, and seat height isn’t bad at 37 inches. We loved the Sherco’s ribbed seat cover and grippy grips.
As it turned out and after spending additional time on the 300, our first impression of the 2020 300 SEF Factory in Italy was spot on. This is an outstanding motorcycle that simply does everything well when it comes to technical terrain and getting through it quickly, or even not so quickly at a trail-riding pace. This bike certainly makes for an excellent trail bike that is very easy to ride.
If you’re leery about the idea of owning a relatively unknown brand in the U.S., well, don’t worry, that should change soon, now that it has a new importer and that the company has openly said it wants to make its name just as well-known here in the U.S. as it already is in Europe and even Australia, where it is very popular. And the company is backing up its words by signing one of this country’s top extreme off-road rider, Cody Webb. These guys are serious.
With products like the 300 SEF Factory, you’re going to be hearing the name Shercro a lot soon